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Death in the City

A Novel by Kyle Giroux

A Retired Death


June 21, 2012



June 21, 2012



June 21, 2012


All passengers land safely on pavement

Death was always good at what he did; he hardly ever erred in his work. And even if he did, if by some incredible circumstance a person escaped his hand, went on talk shows to tell his story, wrote books, and lived armless but in riches for the rest of his life, Death still took him. It was just the way things were for him—he was too good for anyone to keep up. But even the best chess players in the world want to play checkers sometimes. So, one summer afternoon, Death decided to retire.

The other Horsemen of the Apocalypse--Pestilence, War, and Famine--were out doing their own things. Death had no grand retirement parties or plans to live out the rest of his life in Acapulco with a nice lady. There was no pension plan, no two-week notice, no young and ambitious replacement. None of that. On this particular early summer afternoon, Death took off his black robe, set it down, and walked off. And that was that.

Death made his way to the small city of Hair, Massachusetts. He had always admired its many trinket shops and parks, as well as its dense and eclectic population he could have only ever dreamed of learning more about. He donned his finest suit (since being visible required looking good, of course) and his black walking stick, slicked his hair back, and breathed deeply. Here was a new beginning for our Death.

Death found that, without a morbid duty to fulfill, stalking the little city was much more relaxing. He was able to enjoy the sun on his face, the swirling clouds of cigarette smoke pouring across the sidewalks, the wisps of water blowing at him from the river.

Darkness fell on Death’s first night in the city, and he was cold. He could remember reaping people in apartments, and decided he should probably get his own. But he did not even know where to begin searching. Eventually the night grew longer, and Death was still on the cold city streets, all alone. He thought only briefly that retirement was a bad idea, but quickly assured himself that he should make the best of his new life. And so he walked and walked until he found a street that was well-lit and full of people.

“Ah,” said Death aloud, hearing his own voice for the first time in years. It sounded gravelly and old. “The people here are out at night. My kind of street.” He walked down the sidewalk, swinging his arms back and forth in determination. He greeted people as he went; rows of sparsely clad women, punctuated by men with hats and canes and flashy robes. Death thought this was a curious sight beneath the lights of broken-down convenience and liquor stores. Many returned Death’s greetings, giving him great appreciation for the human race and making him think that perhaps this type of life would be an easier one.

Death continued to walk until a woman blocked his path. She was quite thin and wore only what looked like underwear. Death tried to peer around her but she moved with his eyes.

“Like what you see, friend?” said a voice. Death whirled around to see a man with a long overcoat and black cane. He stuck his face in front of Death’s and was breathing on him with pungent breath that was reminiscent of old, wet tomatoes.

“I certainly do,” said Death, running his fingers through his grey hair and gazing at the man with friendly curiosity.

“Take your pick then,” said the man. He waved his hand in the direction of the many pretty girls lined up along the streets. “All mine are on this side of the road. Don’t you go there to the other side.”

“My pick?” repeated Death. “This is your side of the road?” The man’s eyes were not warm like he expected, but rather distant and black. Death immediately felt a sick, uncomfortable feeling deep within his stomach and wondered if that was normal.

“Yes,” said the man, refusing to satisfy Death’s desire for further explanation.

“Oh, goodness,” said Death. And, with the man’s icy glare still upon him, he darted to the other side of the street.

In the throng of people on the other sidewalk, Death felt safe again. The man was nowhere in sight, and Death kept walking along, arms swinging every which way, hoping to find a friendlier fellow city-goer. But he did not walk far before another voice came from behind him. “Like what you see?” it said.

Death swung around again. This man was particularly short, shorter than most of the women around him. He wore a tan overcoat and carried perpetually shifting eyes beneath his balding head. His mustache was perched, large and puffing, above pursed lips. His voice was significantly higher pitched than the other man’s, and therefore far less intimidating.

Seeing this as a clean slate to meet someone new, Death went about greeting him differently. “What is your name?” he asked.

“Who’s asking?” said the man. He looked at Death with narrowed eyes and Death felt uncomfortable again. But he pressed forward anyways.

“I am Death,” said Death.

“Look, buddy, whatever you want to call yourself,” said the man, taking a step back. “Dressed awfully nice for a stroll around these parts, huh?”

“Well,” said Death. He looked at the man, who looked back at him. Death felt he was not doing well at meeting people at this point, but he was determined. “Is this your side of the road?”

The man looked at Death intently, then said, “You aren’t a cop, are you?”

“No,” said Death. “Why?”

“Why? What do you mean, why?” The man looked at Death. Death could only look back. Then the man finally said, “Look, pal, I think you’re in the wrong place. You looking

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